Stephen Halliday: Steven Gerrard must strike silver if he is to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool

Rangers and Liverpool announced contract extensions for Steven Gerrard and Jurgen Klopp within little more than an hour of each other. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Rangers and Liverpool announced contract extensions for Steven Gerrard and Jurgen Klopp within little more than an hour of each other. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
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The choreography of Rangers and Liverpool announcing contract extensions for their managers within little more than an hour of each other on Friday morning was striking.

Coincidence or not, it simply lends weight to the notion that Steven Gerrard has been effectively pre-anointed as Jurgen Klopp’s successor at Anfield.

That’s a perception which Gerrard himself is the first to try and dispel. Speaking earlier this week, before his new Ibrox deal was confirmed, he insisted it was “nonsense” to suggest that he sees his time in charge of Rangers as a rehearsal for anything else.

But as sincere and earnest as he undoubtedly is in stating his unwavering commitment to his current job, Gerrard cannot hope to prevent others from harbouring the presumption that his long-term pathway back to Anfield is already being mapped out for him.

Klopp himself has already publicly stated that Gerrard should be the man to replace him whenever his time at Liverpool does come to an end.

But if those stars are to align, of course, it cannot be solely based on the reverence and eternal goodwill which Liverpool supporters extend to their former captain and midfield general.

Gerrard must also add substance to the obvious promise he has shown so far in the first managerial role of his career.

That means winning silverware, pure and simple, and how the 39-year-old would have loved his new contract to have been announced on the back of a League Cup final victory last weekend.

Regardless of how well his side played against Celtic in that Hampden epic, Gerrard’s tenure at Rangers cannot be considered truly transformative until he finds a way to end the Scottish champions’ astonishing vice-like grip on all three domestic trophies in this country.

He now has two shots left at making a dent in Celtic’s supremacy this season. And before the Scottish Cup campaign kicks off in mid-January, Gerrard’s squad can ill afford to lose any further ground on Neil Lennon’s side at the top of the Premiership.

The remaining fixtures before the winter break, starting with Sunday’s potentially hazardous trip to third-placed Motherwell, will offer a clear indication of whether Rangers are better placed to last the pace in the title race this time around.

Currently two points adrift, any further slip-ups over the next fortnight could see Rangers heading to Celtic Park on 29 December in danger of seeing a prohibitive gap opening up between the Old Firm rivals.

Gerrard’s considerable improvement of the ramshackle Rangers squad he inherited in the summer of 2018 has manifested itself most noticeably in the Europa League where he has now suffered only three defeats in 28 matches over the past 18 months.

It’s an admirable record by any standards, and Thursday night’s progress to the knockout phase of this season’s tournament was further validation of a manager who appears well-equipped to operate successfully on the continental stage.

That’s a crucial weapon in the armoury of any coach who might one day be standing in the technical area at Anfield, overseeing operations at a club steeped in success at the most elevated levels of European football.

For Rangers, the Europa League runs under Gerrard have brought renewed status and crucial financial streams to the club.

But unless or until he can lead them back to the domestic winners’ enclosure, Gerrard will be treated no differently to any other Old Firm manager in being judged a success or failure on the basis of whether they manage to make any new additions to the club’s lengthy and laden list of domestic honours.